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Mistress Owl

Mistress Owl
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Mistress Owl

A French Story by Jacqueline Fanchini


When Mistress Owl tentatively glanced out at the world from her cozy hollow in the tree truck, she could tell by the winter sun that it was well past noon and so ventured onto a nearby branch. She was sure that she heard movement close by, and as her curiosity got the better of her, she crept silently in the direction of the sound.

Her acute hearing had not failed her, for she soon spotted a raven perched upon a neighboring branch. Master Raven stood tall with his black plumage gleaming in the sunlight and his jet-black eyes full of pride. And in his beak he held a wheel of cheese which he had stolen from the kitchen of a nearby farm. 

Suddenly there was a noise from below and there stood Mr Fox, drawn to the foot of the tree by the smell of the cheese. ‘Hello and good day, Sire of Ravens!’ said the charming fox. ‘How handsome you are! Your beauty compels me so! God forbid that I lie, for if your song is but equal to your plumage then you are truly a Phoenix amongst the birds of the forest. There is no doubt that one such as you could render all creatures speechless, and what an honor it would be to hear your exquisite song.’

Raven's beautiful voiceThese words filled Master Raven with pride and joy, and to show that he did indeed posses a beautiful voice, he lifted his head high and opened his beak in preparation to sing for Mr Fox. That is when the wheel of cheese fell from his beak and tumbled down to the ground.

‘My dear Raven,’ continued the charming fox, ‘let it be known to you that every flatterer lives at the expense of his listener. Surely this lesson is worth a mere piece of cheese. And thus I bid you farewell.’

And with these words, Mr Fox picked up the wheel of cheese and disappeared into the forest leaving Master Raven to curse at his own foolishness. Then and there the proud raven promised that he would never be made a fool of again.

Alone once more, Mistress Owl could not help but deplore the raven’s inability to recognize his enemies. As sweet as any compliment might be, it will not necessarily be true or heartfelt.

It was then that Mistress Owl noticed another scene unfolding on the forest floor below. She could see the grasshopper pleading with the ant for food. It seemed that the grasshopper had spent the summer singing and prancing around, and so she had no food to last her through the winter. The ant, however, had worked hard all season and had gathered and stored a great deal of food for the winter. And so the grasshopper found herself asking the ant for help.

‘I will pay you back,’ insisted the desperate grasshopper, ‘before next fall. I swear on animal’s honor, interest and all! You know you can trust me as I’ve never done you wrong.’

Well now, the ant was not of the lending kind, that being his only fault. And as the grasshopper cried and cried, the ant remembered all of the months he’d spent with his back hunched carrying seed after seed for his winter store, never once resting or playing. With these thoughts in mind, the ant asked the grasshopper, ‘What did you do with all of your time this past summer?’

‘Night and day, may it not displease you, I sang and sang to my heart’s content.’

‘Oh, you sang did you,’ said the ant indignantly. ‘I’m quite glad. Well now you may dance. Either way I shall give you none of my food.’

With that the ant slammed his door in the grasshopper’s face. And even though the grasshopper persisted in her pleading, the door remained closed.

The ant knew that the lazy grasshopper would go and visit another acquaintance next, and they would quite probably provide her with food. Nevertheless, the industrious ant hoped that the grasshopper would now give more thought to the future and collect her own food instead of relying on the kindness of others. The ant felt there was no love to be given to those who did not even attempt to provide for themselves. 

From high up in her tree, Mistress Owl certainly hoped that the ant’s stern lesson had served its purpose. It seemed to her that all too often the creatures of the forest did not learn from their mistakes, but instead went around and around in circles repeating the same patterns again and again.

As she ventured back to her cozy hollow in the tree, Mistress Owl thought how hard life’s lessons can be, and how cruel it is that we only seem to learn these lessons through painful experience yet disregard them when given to us as advice. Perhaps, thought the wise owl, we will one day come to accept good advice and not have to learn such lessons the hard way.

Mistress Owl
Find out more
about the contributors

Mistress Owl

A French Story by Jacqueline Fanchini


Madame Chouette jeta un regard dehors depuis son nid douillet dans le creux d’arbre et sut d’après le soleil d’hiver qu’il était plus de midi. Elle décida de s’aventurer sur une branche proche. Elle était sûre d’avoir entendu un mouvement, et la curiosité étant sa principale qualité, elle s’approcha en silence dans la direction d’où venait le son.

Son ouïe fine ne l’avait pas trompée car elle aperçut soudain un corbeau sur une branche voisine. Maître Corbeau faisait le beau, son plumage noir brillant au soleil et ses yeux noirs comme des jais étaient plein de fierté. Dans son bec, il tenait un fromage qu’il avait volé dans la cuisine d’une ferme proche.

Soudain, il y eut un bruit  au bas de l’arbre et Monsieur Renard fit son apparition attiré par l’odeur du fromage. 'Bonjour, Roi des corbeaux!' dit le charmant renard. 'Que vous êtes joli! Que vous me semblez beau! Dieu me pardonne si je mens car votre voix n’a d’égal que votre plumage, vous êtes vraiment le Phénix parmi les oiseaux de la forêt. Il n’y a aucun doute que quelqu’un comme vous rendrait toutes autres animaux sans voix et que c’est un honneur de vous écouter chanter.'

Raven's beautiful voiceCes mots remplirent Monsieur Corbeau de fierté et de joie, et pour montrer qu’il possède en effet une très belle voix, il se redressa et ouvrit son bec pour chanter pour Monsieur Renard. Et c’est ainsi que le fromage tomba de son bec et roula au sol.

'Mon cher Monsieur Corbeau,' continua le charmant renard, 'apprenez que tout flatteur vit au dépend de celui qui l’écoute. Cette leçon vaut bien un morceau de fromage. Et sur ce, je vous dis adieu.'

Et sur ces mots, Monsieur Renard attrapa le fromage et disparut dans la forêt laissant Monsieur Corbeau honteux de sa propre bêtise. Et c’est ainsi que le fier corbeau se promit que l’on ne l’y reprendrait plus.

Seule, une fois de plus, Madame Chouette ne pouvait s’empêcher de déplorer l’incapacité du corbeau à reconnaître ses ennemis. Aussi doux que puisse être un compliment, il n’en est pas nécessairement vrai ou venant du cœur.

C’est alors que Madame Chouette remarqua une autre scène se déroulant sur le sol de la forêt. Elle pouvait voir une cigale plaidant avec une fourmi pour de la nourriture. Il semblait que la cigale avait passé tout l’été à chanter et à danser et qu’elle n’avait pas assez de provisions pour passer l’hiver. La fourmi, par contre, avait travaillé dur tout l’été et avait mis de côté une grande quantité  de provisions pour l’hiver. Et donc la cigale se trouvait à demander de l’aide à la fourmi.

'Je vous rembourserai avant l’automne, principal et intérêts. Foi d’animal!' insistait la cigale désespérée. 'Vous savez que vous pouvez me faire confiance, je ne vous ai jamais fait de mal.'

Mais la fourmi n’était pas prêteuse et c’était bien là son seul défaut. Et pendant que la cigale l’implorait à n’en plus finir, la fourmi se rappela tous les mois qu’elle avait passés le dos courbé à porter graine après graine dans son garde-manger, sans se reposer ou jouer. Forte de cette pensée, la fourmi demanda à la cigale 'Et qu’avez-vous fait tout l’été?'

'Ne vous déplaise, j’ai chanté nuit et jour.'

'Oh! Vous chantiez dites-vous,' lui répondit la fourmi indignée. 'J’en suis bien aise. Et bien dansez maintenant. Quoiqu’il arrive je ne vous donnerai rien de mes provisions.'

Sur ce, la fourmi claqua sa porte au nez de la cigale. Et malgré toutes les plaintes de cette dernière, la porte resta fermée.

La fourmi savait que la cigale paresseuse finirait par aller voir une autre connaissance et que cette dernière lui donnerait probablement de quoi passer l’hiver. Cependant la fourmi travailleuse espérait que la cigale réfléchirait désormais un peu et mettrait sa propre nourriture de côté plutôt que d’espérer la charité des autres habitants de la forêt. Pour la fourmi, il n’y a pas d’aide à donner à ceux qui sont incapables de s’occuper d’eux-mêmes.

Depuis son arbre, Maitresse Chouette espérait que cette leçon serait apprise par la cigale. Il lui semblait que bien trop souvent les habitants de la forêt n’apprenaient pas les leçons de leurs erreurs mais continuaient de les répéter encore et encore.

En rentrant dans son nid douillet dans le creux de l’arbre, Madame Chouette pensa aux leçons que nous donne la vie et comme il est cruel que nous n’apprenions  ces leçons qu’à travers des expériences difficiles, sans écouter ceux qui nous conseillent. Peut-être qu’un jour, espéra la sage chouette, nous finirons par accepter le bon conseil et n’aurons plus à apprendre nos leçons de façon aussi douloureuse.

 

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